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A History of Country Vol. 4: War Years – 1941-46

September 30th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

By the early 1940s the crooners had begun to make their mark, with Jimmie Davies “” future Democrat governor of Louisiana “” having led the way. Many of them had toiled and crooned in the 1930s. But with a world war slowly engulfing the globe, the market wanted, and got, romance. More than that, men took their country songs with them to the army and disseminated the music among their fellow soldiers. Country music thus found new fans, and its leading singers “” Roy Acuff, Gene Autry, Red Foley, Tex Ritter, Eddy Arnold “” gained a national audience. In 1945, Arnold even beat the mighty Frank Sinatra in a favourite-singer poll among GIs stationed in Germany.

Some singers hit temporary highs before disappearing, such as Ted Daffan, whose 1944 hit Born To Lose (actually recorded in 1942) would later be covered by Ray Charles on his seminal 1962 LP Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music. Other temporarily bright stars included Wesley Tuttle and Jack Guthrie. The latter, Woody Guthrie”s cousin, was very influential but died at the age of 32 of tuberculosis in 1948.

Western swing continued to grow in popularity. Not only was Bob Wills one of the biggest names in country, but artists such as Pee Wee King (like Wills a bandleader) made an impression. Spade Cooley took the genre towards a more pop-oriented style. Cooley in 1961 was convicted of murdering his wife, dying eight years later in jail (more about him in Vol 5).

Other new stars appeared on the scene. In 1941 Ernest Tubb recorded his first hit record (the honky tonk Walking The Floor Over You, which, unusually for the time, prominently featured the electric guitar, as would in 1948 Arthur Smith”s seminal Guitar Boogie) and the prolific songwriter and singer Cindy Walker hit the country and pop charts with her cover of Bing Crosby”s Long Star Trail. Helped along by the proliferation of hayride and barndance shows on radio, country went mainstream. The most influential of these of course was Nashville”s Grand Ole Opry, which attracted the best and most popular stars from other shows, a policy it would follow well into the 1950s (when it nevertheless failed to spot the talents of Louisiana Hayride regular Elvis Presley, even after he appeared on the Opry as Hank Snow”s opening act). Augmenting the Opry line-up, headed and presented by Acuff, were comics such as the wildly popular Minnie Pearl. Not surprisingly, the novelty record was very much part of country music. Some of them, such a Lonzo & Oscar”s I”m My Own Granpa, were even funny.

As the US joined the war, some singers turned to the sort of jingoism which 60 years later Toby Keith exploited to lucrative effect, with a similar lack of tact or sophistication. Very soon after the Japanese attack on the US naval base in Hawaii, the Carson Robison Trio entreated their listeners to Remember Pearl Harbor, demanded that We’re Gonna Have To Slap The Dirty Little Jap and called to arms with Get Your Gun And Come Along (We”re Fixing To Kill A Skunk) “” though neither sounded country, or any good, at all “” while yodeller Elton Britt promised that There”s A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere. The latter, recorded on 19 March 1942, narrated the desire of a handicapped country boy to fight in the war. This slice of maudlin patriotism became country music”s first gold single. Zeke Williams” Smoke On The Water (also recorded by Red Foley) in 1944 represented the victory which within a year would become reality. Around the same time, Woody Guthrie “” still in the country fold “” threatened just comeuppance for fascists.

Most of the stars of the early 1940s not only survived the post-war years, but benefited from a boom which saw the emergence of new superstars in the late “40s and early “50s, such as Merle Travis, Hank Snow (a Canadian!), Webb Pierce, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Hank Thompson, Jim Reeves and so on. Two of these would be monumentally influential: Lefty Frizell and Hank Williams. Debuting in 1947 with the outstanding Move It On Over (which in parts sounded much like the later Rock Around The Clock), Williams scored 36 more hits before his death at 29 on New Year”s Day 1953. There might have been rock & roll without Hank Williams, but perhaps not quite the way we know it. Frizell was just as huge as Williams, at one point in 1951 scoring four simultaneous hits in the country top 10. Frizell exercised a profound influence on future giants of country such as George Jones, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.

The era also saw the slow rise of the female country singer. Such artists as Sara and Maybelle Carter, Patsy Montana, Louise Massey and Cindy Walker had enjoyed success in the preceding two decades, but there were very few women in country. The early 1950s produced the first enduring superstar, Kitty Wells, and a few others in whose footsteps the likes of Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson, Skeeter Davis and Tammy Wynette would walk. Molly O”Day had briefly attained star status in the 1940s, Goldie Hill was hugely popular for a while, Rose Maddox had a series of hits with her brothers. We will encounter them and others in volumes 6 and 7.

TRACKLISTING
1. Ernest Tubb – Walking The Floor Over You
2. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys – Corrine Corrina
3. Hoosier Hot Shots – Dude Cowboy
4. Louise Massey and the Westerners – My Adobe Hacienda
5. Sons Of The Pioneers – Cool Water
6. Carson Robison Trio – Remember Pearl Harbor
7. Elton Britt – There’s A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere
8. Jimmy Wakely – When It’s Round Up Time In Texas
9. Ted Daffan’s Texans – Born To Lose
10. Cindy Walker – Miss Molly
11. Bob Atcher & Bonnie Blue Eyes – Pins And Needles (In My Heart)
12. Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys – Night Train To Memphis
13. Texas Jim Lewis – Too Late To Worry, Too Blue To Care
14. Rex Griffin – Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby
15. Al Dexter and his Troopers – Pistol Packin’ Mama
16. Red Foley – Smoke On The Water
17. Wilf Carter – A Sinner’s Prayer
18. Woody Guthrie & Sonny Terry – All You Fascists Bound To Lose
19. Bradley Kincaid and his Kentucky Mountain Boys – Ain’t We Crazy
20. Tex Ritter – There’s A New Moon Over My Shoulder
21. Gene Autry – Gonna’ Build A Big Fence Around Texas
22. Wesley Tuttle – With Tears In My Eyes
23. Floyd Tillman – Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin
24. Johnny Bond – So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed
25. Molly O’Day – When God Comes To Gather His Jewels
26. Merle Travis – Divorce Me C.O.D.
27. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys – Keep A-Knockin’ But You Can’t Come In
28. Delmore Brothers – Freight Train Boogie
29. Harry Choates – Jole Blon
30. The Prairie Ramblers – I Don’t Love Anybody But You

(includes front and back covers. PW here)

GET IT:L https://rapidgator.net/file/747bb0a5513236da7e94897d4cd7a942/Cntry41-46.rar.html

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Previously in A History of Country
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  1. September 30th, 2010 at 10:15 | #1

    Thanks for another great comp. I’m loving these.

  2. lemonflag
    September 30th, 2010 at 15:39 | #2

    Thanks

  3. censusloss
    October 1st, 2010 at 01:19 | #3

    Self – evidently compiled with a lot of love and knowledge of these great years in Country music -THANK YOU for the post I’ll have a lot of fun !!

  4. Don Burns
    October 1st, 2010 at 21:10 | #4

    You’re a terrific writer. I’m waiting until the next volume to jump into this series, but I couldn’t resist commenting on your interesting and informative text. This being the internet, I’m also obligated to commend you for being able to spell correctly.

  5. Sven DiMilo
    October 4th, 2010 at 02:12 | #5

    yay, a new one!
    Thanks for these, man.

  6. wandlimb
    October 4th, 2010 at 02:43 | #6

    once again, thanks! another great volume.

  7. October 8th, 2010 at 17:51 | #7

    Great selections – I have a four disc Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys boxed set with about a hundred songs on, and almost as many styles. It nicely showcases all the influences on country music at the time, and mirrors the ways that artistes were being pushed and pulled by commercial and cultural trends.

  8. halfhearteddude
    October 9th, 2010 at 09:21 | #8

    It’s a pity that Wills is not residing in the same category of icons as, say, Louis Armstrong or Hank Williams. His contribution to music was profound. I don’t think one can link the birth of rock & roll to any one artist or record, but if we want to identify a development in music as particularly pivotal in that respect, Western Swing must be a chief contender as the first genre that achieved sustained success by drawing from white and black musical forms.

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